PITTSFIELD, Maine — The grand opening of the local Reuse Center started with plates, cups, microwaves, toys and oatmeal boxes covering wood tables. A half-hour later, several shelves were bare and tables looked a bit scant. Dozens of people walked out, arms full, boxes full, smiling with their new finds.
The new Reuse Center is a community effort to recycle more, in turn saving residents money and keeping usable items out of the landfill. The center was years in the making by the town’s recycling committee after its members heard from transfer station workers that many items being tossed were still good. Now people drop off items and others can take them, all for free.
The recycling committee’s leader and the town mayor, Timothy Nichols, gave a brief speech before the ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning.
“This will help people in a time of need,” he said. “It’s up to us to look after each other. It’s like when I was younger: Communities have to band together.”
Pittsfield sits in Somerset County, which has one of the lowest incomes per capita in Maine and one of the highest unemployment rates, according to the town’s manager. More than half the students in the local school get free or reduced-rate lunch, according to Anna Peterson, who works at the school and is on the town’s recycling committee.
“We’re a frugal town,” said Town Manager Kathryn Ruth.
The savings expected from the Reuse Center work double time, according to Ruth. People who need household goods can get them free, saving themselves money; and the people who donate items instead of throwing them out save the town money.
“Every ton of material disposed costs $53. Over the span of a year, we’ll have multiple tons reused,” Ruth said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the community to save money on disposal costs and to help the environment and to help people in these hard economic times.”
The town tracks the progress of the volunteer-run center, which costs them nothing except for lights.
“I want to put this in my car. Can I just take it?” asked Juanita Graves of St. Albans.
“We have to record it,” said Mayor Nichols.
He jotted down “10 pounds,” and she stowed the oven in her car.
“I’ve been looking for a small one. I’ll make open-face sandwiches on it,” Graves said.
The Reuse Center is in the old Veterans of Foreign Wars clubhouse on Peltoma Avenue across from the transfer station and is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. Item or monetary donations are welcome. All items are free.